Social media has become a hotbed of fake influence - not just fake news, but now fake fame & fake audiences are bringing about a new era of distrust. These days it’s easy to buy hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers for a few dollars online. Not only are the people in some pics airbrushed and filtered beyond recognition, but they can be photoshopped into their exotic locations, or feigning a phoney endorsement for a luxury brand to dupe audiences into believing they have credible clients. You don’t even need to be a real human anymore to be an influencer - take Lil Miquela, the computer generated 19 year old, with 1.5 million followers.
Consumers are no longer buying into it - and as such, the brands are also abandoning ship.
Why is it important to build a relationship?
Steve Bartlett, CEO of social media marketing powerhouse, Social Chain, reports that 90% of the company’s influencer marketing spend in the past year has been moved away from big-hitting Instagrammers, to micro-influencers.
Bartlett explains that whilst the bottom has fallen out of celebrity endorsements, the appeal of micro-influencers, who he says might have only 4000 followers, is “they respond to their DMs, they respond to their comments, “you feel like you have a relationship with them”. A relationship forms trust and so the power of the endorsement still exists there.
Relationships are a 2-way street
Online relationships, just like in real world friendships, are built by not only sharing about yourself and your life, but by being interested in and engaged with the other person.
Neil Atkinson, content Manager of The Anfield Wrap (a podcast that gets over 100,000 weekly downloads) tells me “Growth is easy. With 50 matches a year, there’s always new football content to attract new listeners. But to make a podcast sustainable, you need your audience to stay around. And the reasons our audiences stick around, are the genuine relationships we build with them”.
One of the ways the Anfield Wrap forms a relationship with their listeners is with their Friday Night ritual - an AMA, recorded over drinks, where the community is invited to ask the expert football pundits anything they want… as long as it’s not related to football. “The football brought everyone together, but this is about getting to know each other”.
The guys sit down with a few drinks, and chat openly and intimately. It just sounds like a conversation between mates down the pub - and that’s pretty much what it is. “The guys in our community tell us it’s invaluable” says Atkinson, “as they’ve gotten older, their opportunities to spend Friday nights down the pub with mates have vanished thanks to having families, greater responsibilities and commitments. But now, with being part of the podcast, they’re having that experience again, and feeling that connection”
The connection is incredibly valuable for creators too
Comedian Joel White’s podcast, The Berlin Patient, shot to number 2 in the iTunes Charts with half a million downloads, but he had no way of reaching out to his listeners, other than replying to the emails they sent him. “Podcasting is a bit of a one way street” he told me. “You sit in a studio, your bedroom, your shed, wherever - recording this thing - and then you put it out into the world. People seem to like it, some episodes more than others, but you don’t know why they liked it or what they liked, or what they want you to talk about next - so you’re just sat there on your own, trying to guess. I’d love to be in touch with my listeners, as easily as I am with my friends and family. In podcasting, there is too much of a wall between the person who is talking and the person who listens. I’d like more of a back and forth”.
Connecting the Community
“I absolutely love hearing from my listeners. I appreciate it so much. But as the audience has grown, it means it’s really difficult for me to keep up and reply to everything - even though I desperately want to” says Sean McDonald - whose Podcast Blethered has enjoyed meteoric growth, in part thanks to being featured by Apple.
“I also think the people that the podcast resonates with would get a lot from meeting each other” he continues.
“I’ve spoken a bit about the cycle of addiction, the way alcohol and recreational drugs can affect your mental health - and some of the messages I get are really amazing, guys opening up and telling me their story. Then the next day I’ll get a really similar message from somebody else, and I’m like “hold on, you pair have been through exactly the same thing, you both sound like brilliant guys, and you’ve both just said to me that I’m the only person you’ve found who you’ve been able to tell about it. And I’m like, “Man I wish I could introduce these guys to each other, they’d probably get so much from it”.
Friendships, not Followers
Whether creator or community, we now seek authentic, enriching experiences online. We’ve all realised that the fleeting hit of dopamine we get from our photo getting liked or our account gaining a follow, is not fulfilling us - if anything, it’s producing a deeper void within ourselves.
We’re more conscious of our mental health and we are all more open about it. It’s no longer embarrassing to admit that actually, we want to be happy, confident people with more meaningful friendships.
So how are friendships formed?
Psychologists break it down a little like this:
- Common Ground - a shared interest or experience is a great starting point
- An environment or situation that provides a bit of social lubricant to get things going
- Followed up by regular, recurring interaction
- During which you have a mutual exchange of sharing & listening
It sounds simple, but it’s actually an increasingly rare set of circumstances in today’s world
However, it’s this structure that has given us the blueprint for Flick Groups.
- You are brought together via your shared like for the content or creator
- The group provides a bit of social lubricant & structure
- Your regular, recurring social engagement comes from fresh content - Weekly podcast drops, recurring AMAs, lots to talk about
- It’s built for exchanges - we’ve designed Flick to move away from the idea of individual posts, to which people can add comments. Flick is about exchange - it’s chat pure & simple